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Charities Bill [HL]

Volume 817: debated on Monday 10 January 2022

Third Reading

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Charities Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

My Lords, the Charities Bill requires no legislative consent Motions. In relation to Wales, charity law is reserved to Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom. In relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland, charity law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Clause 41 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill. The Bill extends to England and Wales only, subject to certain exceptions. Those exceptions are Clause 24, Schedule 1 and paragraphs 12 and 46 of Schedule 2, which have a different application than the general application of the Bill set out in Clause 41(1). These differences are explained in the Bill and in the Explanatory Notes. Given the limited scope of the applicability of these parts of the Bill, no legislative consent Motions are required. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.


Moved by

My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I want to take the opportunity to express some thanks, first to my noble friend Lady Barran, who so ably guided the Bill through its Second Reading and the beginning of the committee’s evidence sessions. Her dedication to and personal experience in the charity sector is evident, and I know that she was pleased to be the Minister to set this Bill on its way. I am grateful also to all Members of your Lordships’ House who have spoken on it. I draw attention especially to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, who chaired the Special Public Bill Committee which examined the Bill, and to the members of that committee, my noble friends Lord Bellingham, Lord Cruddas, Lady Fullbrook and Lord Sharpe of Epsom, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Goudie. I also pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who inspired the Law Commission to take on this project in the first place. He has, as ever, eloquently and doggedly conveyed his expertise and experience in these debates. Although I am afraid that we did not agree on absolutely everything, I certainly appreciated the way in which he prosecuted his case and am grateful for his invaluable perspective on the Bill.

I thank all those behind the scenes, the staff in your Lordships’ House and colleagues from the Law Commission, the Charity Commission, Parliamentary Counsel and DCMS, for their work.

The passage of this Bill has demonstrated the passion and expertise of your Lordships’ House and its Members in relation to charities. It will make a great a difference to a number of charities, and I hope to see it on the statute book very soon.

This Bill will be warmly welcomed by the charity sector. As chair of the Special Public Bill Committee, I thank the Minister and, as he said, his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, for their membership of the committee and their engagement with it. I join the Minister in thanking the members of the committee, who had to consider some really quite difficult technical evidence, as well as those who gave written and oral evidence. Professor Hopkins and Daniel Robinson of the Law Commission were extremely helpful. Finally, and certainly not least, I know the committee would want me to thank expressly Alasdair Love, the clerk to the committee, who so ably supported us in so many ways.

My Lords, my noble friend was kind enough to mention my involvement. This is an excellent piece of legislation which will be of great benefit to the charity sector. Obviously, I regret that I was unable to persuade the Government of the importance of my amendment, but that particular recalcitrant attitude should not disguise the fact that my noble friend was extremely courteous and helpful in explaining the Government’s position. I am grateful to him for that, and I wish the Bill a speedy passage into law.

My Lords, I wish to add my name to the sentiments that have already been expressed. I particularly thank the many people, in different roles, who came together to bring this piece of legislation to our attention, after such a long time and a lot of work. This House prides itself on its detailed scrutiny of Bills, and this is the place in which a Bill such as this should have been given the attention that we gave it.

I regret that we did not manage to agree on the subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hodson of Astley Abbotts, which remains an outstanding piece of technical law and a very important point of charity law. It will have an impact on the Charity Commission, as the regulator of charities, to do its job. I do not imagine that that issue will come before Parliament for a very long time, but I hope that those who have followed our proceedings will not let it go.

Secondly, one other very small issue was drawn to our attention by one of our witnesses during our session: the operation by the Crown law officers and the Attorney-General of an alternative cy-près scheme. Legislation does not come much more obscure than that, but this is an issue that, on this occasion, we could not probe fully. I hope that that will happen when this goes to another place and, more importantly, that when the practitioners and people in the charity sector come to reflect on our work, as they will do in years to come, they will regard those two points as unfinished business. But, in the meantime, I thank everyone, including the Minister, for his patience with all of us—we lobbed some very difficult questions at him.

My Lords, I echo the sentiments that have been expressed across the House. I particularly thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, for chairing us so ably. I think that I am right in saying that all of us who participated in Committee had never done so for a Law Commission Bill before, so it was a learning experience for all of us. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, is undoubtedly an expert—some would say a leading expert—in this field, and the whole House has benefited from his expertise.

From the experience of my wife, who works in the charitable sector, I know just how lengthy and wide the consultation has been on this Bill over many years. While there are some loose ends, as expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, this is nevertheless a piece of legislation that the whole House can be proud of. I hope that the impact of the Bill will remain in place for many years to come.

I am grateful to all the noble Lords for their comments. As the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, said, charity law can be very complex—not just for legislators but for the charities and organisations that it affects, especially those that do not regularly have access to legal advice. There is a duty on legislators to make the law as accessible as possible, while probing the issues that we have. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that the expert advisers who gave evidence to the committee have helped us to do that and that the Bill has been improved because of the work of the committee and your Lordships’ House.

The Bill leaves this House in very good shape. As I say, it will make a big difference to those who run charities and the many great causes that they support. So, with renewed thanks to all involved and repeating the noble and learned Lord’s thanks to the clerk of the Special Public Bill Committee, Alasdair Love, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.